As any working sap can attest, the three-day weekend is a beautiful thing. Fifty percent longer than the typical break from the work week, a long weekend is something to be savored, each precious hour a blessing from the labor gods, and I usually try to make mine count with a carefully calculated mix of productivity and recreation developed over years as a devout follower of the work-hard-play-hard mindset.
However, when this President’s Day weekend kicked off on Saturday, all I could think about was how to make the hours go by as fast as possible. I rewatched nearly half a season of Orange Is The New Black on Netflix, took a long nap, and even bothered to curl my hair all so I could make it to 8 PM as quickly as possible. You see, that was when I was going to scratch a white whale off my musical bucket list. I was going to see Paul Simon.
I’ve long claimed Graceland as one of my top-five, dessert-island, couldn’t-live-without-it albums, and Simon’s pre-solo work as one-half of that old Art Garfunkel project holds a special place in my heart as well. However, in my thirty (*gulp*) years on this planet, I’d never had the opportunity to see the man behind so many of my favorite songs live, so when I found out he would be playing two shows at the newly renovated Forum in Inglewood, I made it my mission to get out to one of the shows.
No surprise then that I took my place in one of the venues 17,500 seats a full forty-five minutes before set time. No jamzilla traffic or GPS malfunction was going to stand between me and this show. Oh, and did I forget to mention that this would be no ordinary Paul Simon concert (pshaw, like any Paul Simon concert could be considered “ordinary”)? Nope, for this tour, Simon had joined forces with his buddy Sting for an “Evening With” series of dates during which the two artists would be performing both separately and on stage together, making an already special evening even more magical.
You’d think expectations as high as mine would be impossible to meet, yet somehow Paul Simon and Sting managed to exceed them. From the moment the two stepped out on stage together for set opener “Brand New Day,” I was enthralled. The 13+ member backing band was on point throughout the night, delivering new arrangements of some tracks (“Boy In The Bubble” got a denser, less-bouncy treatment, while “The Boxer” was given an Americana spin), while others were so close to the recordings, I had trouble believing they were being performed live.
While obviously I went into the show primarily as a fan of Paul Simon, I assumed I would leave the venue with a newfound appreciation of Sting, and I did, but not in the way I had expected. Turns out I was already a fan of Sting and just didn’t know it. As the evening progressed and I heard more of his catalog, I realized that most of his songs were already favorites of mine; I just didn’t know he was the artist to release them all. Needless to say, Paul Simon’s weren’t the only songs I found myself singing along to, and the portions of the show during which Sting was on stage solo were just as enjoyable as those featuring Mr. Simon.
At one point, Sting bluntly kicked Paul off stage so he could say nice things about his old friend (a testament to their mutual respect and genuine affection for one another) before performing the Simon classic “America” solo. He prefaced the song with the observation that one of the beautiful things about Simon’s catalog is how so many of his songs can conjure up different times and places in the listener’s life and shared a story of how he first fell in love with that particular track when he and his band were touring the States for the first time and sleeping in cheap hotel rooms.
As the evening wound to a close, I found myself reflecting on all the times and places in my life that are intrinsically linked to Paul Simon’s music: my 9th grade English teacher using “The Sounds Of Silence” to teach us about poetry; my husband and I debating the meaning of the line “ever since the watermelon” in “All Around The World” (spoiler alert: there is no meaning); hearing “America” play during my first viewing of Almost Famous and knowing that the movie would become one of my all-time favorites.
But all these little moments couldn’t compare to the three hours I spent in Inglewood Saturday night, wishing for time to slow down as fervently as I had hoped for it to speed up earlier in the day. While the evening eventually did end, I’m grateful that my record collection is at the ready anytime I want to be transported back to my special evening with Paul Simon and Sting at the Forum, a new landmark on my musical journey and one I won’t soon forget.
For more info: